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Today marks the informal start of the 2014 baseball season, which gets me all tingly. Chicago Cubs pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training today at the new facility in Mesa, Arizona, although many have been there for some time.

So maybe the 2014 season doesn’t project to be a particularly bright one for the Cubs. So maybe there’s a touch of lingering frustration about the last few years, and the current offseason. But it’s baseball, man. And it’s back. I’m prepared to enjoy it for as long as I can.

BASEBALL!!!

excited cat kitten

  • http://obstructedview.net Myles

    Finally! The day that Carlos Villanueva checks into the Embassy Suites in Mesa, Arizona!!!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Heh.

      • Senor Cub

        I know they just opened up the New training facility in Mesa! Woo hoo…
        I also know that people in AZ love the Cubs! Is there a way to watch all of this live or is there a channel where they will televise the spring training games. It would be nice to see the young ones play with the vets.

        I can’t wait til aereo.com comes to Chicago. I just cut the cord at home as well. So all of my consumption is now online.

  • Boccabella12

    Go Cubs! While it looks like 2014 will be tough, maybe the surprises will be pleasant for a change. And we’re still tied for first!

  • J. L.

    YAY!!!!!

  • TommyK

    I feel like I’m in a doctor’s office waiting to undergo an unpleasant medical procedure that will last 7 months.

    • jp3

      Ok Tommyk that was pretty funny

    • CubsFaninMS

      Ha! And hopefully we won’t see a blonde nurse with a patch on her eye whistling the Kill Bill theme by the trade deadline.

    • DarthHater

      I didn’t expect the anal probe!

      • DarthHater

        Then I read Jon’s first post of the day and I realized I should have expected it. :-P

  • Jon

    Another journey to 95+ losses and a top 3 draft pick. Yeah!

    • waittilthisyear

      wake up, brush teeth, put coffee on pot, post negative sarcastic comment. a morning in the life of Jon

    • ari gold

      +1 Jon. Let’s hope for top 10!

      • Jon

        Yep. Get in that top 10 and that’s another protected pick, for them not use.

    • CubsFaninMS

      Doesn’t the “tank for a draft pick” mentality have almost a “burned my house down for the insurance money” kind of feel to it? lol

      • ari gold

        When you put it like that

  • ChrisFChi

    Love the cat pic

  • Fishin Phil

    Maybe we can focus on baseball, at least for a little while.

    HOORAY BASEBALL!!!!!

  • waittilthisyear

    what do we consider a positive outcome for this year, with the caveat that “world series,” while an accurate and optimistic answer, is an unlikely one. do we want an improvement in the big league winning%, however marginal? or do we want to see strides from our core guys? obviously the two must need be mutually exclusive, i guess my poll question is “what single result from the cubs 2014 season will leave you most content/least discontent?

    • CubFan Paul

      It’s all about player development this year (Lake, Alcantara, Olt, Arrieta, Sweeney, Castro, Rizzo, Bryant, Baez, T.Wood, Shark, Vogelbach, Soler…)

      Eff increasing the big league win %, I want another Kris Bryant in June 2015.

      • scorecardpaul

        CubFan Paul, couldn’t have said it better. hope for improvements, but lets get one more very high first round pick.
        I also agree with Herve` Villechaize, when he said the plan, the plan

      • augiepb

        Couldn’t agree more. We need to see a few guys from this list break through as for sure guys, a few as role players, and a few to prove they aren’t worthy so we can move on.

  • twinkletoez

    Though the 2014 team does not look good on paper, I hold out hope for a decent season.

    The 98′ 01′ 03′ and 07′ seasons didn’t look good going into the season either but they all surprised.

    97 to 98 from 68 wins to 90 wins
    2000 to 01 from 65 wins to 88 wins
    2002 to 03 from 67 wins to 88 wins
    2006 to 07 from 66 wins to 85 wins

    crazier things have happened!

    • Jason P

      We can hope. Hard to envision any scenario where we sneak into the playoff picture, but I’ll take a luck-aided good first 2 months to the season!

    • Jon

      In 2007, they added 10+ wins by signign Soriano, Derosa, and Lilly in FA. It’s easier to ‘hope’ when the FO attempts to put a competitive roster on the field, vs punting the season.

      • ari gold

        Which led to exactly zero playoff wins along with a shitty and aging team 3 years later. I’ll take my chances with this rebuild.

        • Jon

          That 2008 club that won 97 games could have easily won the WS. That’s MLB postseason, anything can happen, bats can get cold, (Manny was roided up), etc, etc.

          • ari gold

            They weren’t built for sustained success. We spent a ton of $ on veterans and in 2 years we were done.

            • CubFan Paul

              “and in 2 years we were done”

              Because they *had* to stop spending. Had the ML payroll been allowed to average $130Mish then til now, ‘sustained success’ could’ve been achieved.

              • Jon

                This

              • Norm

                2008 – $120M (97-64)
                2009 – $137M (83-78)
                2010 – $145M (75-87)
                2011 – $134M (71-91)
                2012 – $111M (61-101)
                2013 – $107M (66-96)

                • Jon

                  Just posting the payroll figures don’t tell the entire story, budgets were being cut across the board. The Derosa deal was financially motivated, which is quite ironic because it turned out to be a awesome move getting Archer.

                  • mjhurdle

                    just posting payroll doesn’t tell the whole story, but it is a pretty good counter to the “Had the ML payroll been allowed to average $130Mish then til now, ‘sustained success’ could’ve been achieved”.

                    Average Payroll since 2008: 125.6

                    • CubFan Paul

                      You know what I meant.

                  • Norm

                    They traded DeRosa because they signed a free agent in Milton Bradley. It wasn’t a cost cutting move, it was a reallocation of money to an OF’er signed in free agency.

                    There is no way anyone can say that if the Cubs maintained a $130M payroll they would have sustained success when the facts are the payroll was above $130M until 2011 and they had lost 26 wins since 2008.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      Jim Hendry was a cost cutting fool or a ‘reallocater of money’ for awhile. Every move he made money-wise had to countered with something else.

                    • Jon

                      It wasn’t a cost cutting move, it was a reallocation of money

                      Six one way, 1/2 dozen the other.

                    • Norm

                      Unless you think that “cost cutting” means “higher payroll”, you’re just being ridiculous.

                  • Jason P

                    Derosa had one more okay season and then turned back into the player he had been for most of his career.

                    If the Derosa trade hadn’t happened, the only thing that would have changed is that the Cubs would have won 85 games instead of 83 in 2009 and Trey McNutt would be a Ray right now.

              • Chad

                Issue was the same as the Yankees, even if the cubs had kept spending spending they were old and yes they could have competed, but it still wouldn’t have meant much. They got rid of DeRosa who did littler after he left the cubs and they did try to spend some money on guys like Milton Bradley. Lee, Ramirez, Maddux, Lilly etc. were just getting old and the cubs even with added payroll needed an influx of youth to support the older payroll. It was not going to happen.

              • Jason P

                There were exactly 2 players in their starting lineup/rotation in 2008 under the age of 29. And both of those (Zambrano and Soto) ended up flaming out soon thereafter.

                It would have taken a payroll of 200 million, maybe more, to keep that team playoff caliber over the long haul.

                • CubFan Paul

                  “taken a payroll of 200 million, maybe more, to keep that team playoff caliber over the long haul”

                  That rough guesstimate is off by a bit. There were reasonable moves 2010 through now that could’ve been made with a consistent $130Mish payroll.

                  • Jason P

                    They already had a $145 million dollar payroll in 2010. There wasn’t room for any more moves.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “They already had a $145 million dollar payroll in 2010″

                      There’s always room for improvement, but when you’re handicapped financially your options are limited.

                      All the moves made the offseason had to have a counter-move to balance the budget, is what i’m saying. Not “spend, spend, spend”.

                    • Jason P

                      It sounds a lot easier in theory than it is in practicality.

    • brainiac

      i share this hope and i’d love to see the rookies make waves right away. i just don’t think it’s going to happen. for many, many years.

  • Justen

    i just wanted to mention that I love the picture. That and the “BASEBALL!!!” comment makes me laugh thinking about the Vine video from the trade deadline blogathon last year. Good times.

  • dkap

    Just as giddy now as I am at the start of every spring training. Probably more this year because baseball means we’re ever closer to warm weather, but still. Go Cubs Go!

    • ChrisFChi

      This is my unofficial start of spring today. I can’t wait for the season to start!

  • Blackhawks1963

    For me, this season is all about waiting patiently on the development and hoped for arrival of Alcantara, Baez, Bryant, Vizcaino and Hendricks soon enough.

    The big league product is going to be BAD. 65 wins sounds about right.

  • auggie

    I’m hoping that Olt can solve his vision problems and turn things around. If that happens and Castro and Rizzo can improve on their numbers from last season perhaps the Cubs can surprise a few people. The bullpen is vastly improved, so one never knows.

  • baldtaxguy

    Yes! I plan to watch this season:
    (1) Bullpen production
    (2) Castro/Rizzo numbers bump?
    (3) Lake adjusting to the adjustments?
    (4) Castillo Y2
    (5) Baez (and friends?) emergence

  • Eternal Pessimist

    The biggest disappointment from last years development was the very limited number of “non-elite” prospects that seemed to move up the prospect list.

    Fortunately most of the guys who were expected to be very good (Baez, Bryant, Almora) moved up the rankings, but we didn’t have a lot of diamond in the rough guys come through.

    So when we saw the Cubs minors system going from 7th to 5th or 5th to 4th it was quite a letdown (when you tank like the Cubs have I would have hoped for a better return on our sucking investment).

    • kj1

      With this FO Dreamtean, I would think the same. Overall, what grade would you give this FO?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I’m not sure I agree here. There was a lot of progress made by a lot of non-elite prospects last season. It was one of the most positive minor league seasons I’ve seen in that department.

      Alcantara wasn’t a big name entering the season, had a breakout year and finished a Top 100 guy.

      Kyle Hendricks went from fairly anonymous to future back of the rotation candidate by shutting down the Southern League for a season.

      Zach Rosscup began the year as a trivia question and finished as a darn good lefty reliever prospect that some are considering for a job in the majors this season.

      Dustin Geiger put together a big year that put himself into the prospect conversation.

      Shawon Dunston made major improvements in SS-A ball and is solid breakout candidate for 2014.

      Kevin Encarnacion, Christian Villanueva, Stephen Bruno, Rafael Lopez, Matt Loosen, Zach Cates, Wes Darvill, Rock Shoulders, Corbin Hoffner, Paul Blackburn, and more all made significant progress last year and their status on organizational prospect rankings (that are deep enough) reflect that.

      Sure, the Cubs only placed 3 guys outside of the Big 4 on most Top 100 lists (and one of those came via trade), but that doesn’t mean other prospects weren’t developing, breaking out, and moving up the list.

      The Cubs farm system, top to bottom, made enormous strides last year. From an organizational standpoint, there’s nothing there in which we should be disappointed.

      • MightyBear

        After a slow start, Hendricks also did well at Iowa. Which is one of the reasons I’m higher on him than most people.

      • Eternal Pessimist

        I wasn’t really looking so much at the talent acquired by trade (which I think was excellent overall), and yes, there were a few guys surprising somewhat, but it is hard to get too excited about some guys rising up to be possible back-end of the rotation or maybe relievers. Important yes, but not as much of a rise in the overall minors ranking as I would expect, especially considering the great trades we made.

        Alcantara may be the one exception on the list, but after 3 years of tanking I would hope a couple more of those 2010 or 1011 draftees would have shot up the list (not just the ones that were top of the draft – almost sure things).

        • Kyle

          The Cubs under Ricketts/Hendry completely crapped the bed in the 2010 draft. There’s just no getting around it.

          The 2011 draft, I don’t know how much more you can ask for. You’ve got a top-5 prospect, a borderline top-100 type, and another half-dozen organizational top-30s. You won’t get much better than that.

      • Noah_I

        I’m in the western suburbs now, and Shawon Dunston, Jr. is my number one guy I’m excited to watch in Kane County this season.

    • Jon

      The Cubs farms system is up there with the Astros, and Twins. It’s not a disappointment to me, more like a non-achievement. If you tank for 4+ seasons, four years later, you will have a great farm system.

      • MightyBear

        Yea just like the Pirates.

        • MightyBear

          Just like the Royals.

          • MightyBear

            Just like the Mariners.

            • Jon

              You might have a point here, if each of those teams punted each of the past 4 seasons.

              • MightyBear

                The Pirates punted for 20 years before their farm system became good. The Royals and Mariners have sucked forever and their farm system isn’t that good. Losing doesn’t guarantee a good farms system is the point. And the Cubs aren’t punting anything. When they surprise this year, you’ll still be bitching. You’re a troll.

                • Kyle

                  The Royals farm system isn’t good because they graduated all their great prospects and traded one.

                  We’re like two or three years removed from the Royals being argued as the No. 1 farm system *of all time*.

                  And they didn’t suck last year. So basically, nothing you said about the Royals was right.

                  • Jon

                    The Mariners also have had 1 top ten pick the past four years, Zuino, who they graduated already. So nothing he said about them is correct either.

                  • ssckelley

                    Kyle, the Royals do suck. Last year was supposed to be their break through season with those “great” prospects but they had a losing record 1/2 way through the season and was .500 as late as August 24th after a 7 game losing streak. They finished 3rd in the Central and ended the season 6 games behind the Indians for the last wild card spot.

                    • Jon

                      I actually think the Royals are a great ‘cautionary’ tale of what can go wrong with the plan. It’s great to build a powerhouse farm system, but if those players underwhelm in the big leagues, and you don’t have anything else to fall back on, you are in trouble.

                    • Kyle

                      No matter how you try to spin it, 86-76 doesn’t suck.

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                      Strictly speaking, I could think of ways that an 86-76 season sucks. If you overcommitted long-term on payroll that you know you can’t meet while fielding a reasonable team a few years from now, if you sold off all your top prospects for guys with one year of control left, etc.

                      Just saying. Technically, there is a way to spin 86-76 as sucking. As for the Royals, specifically … eh. That Myers trade sure did suck, though.

                    • ssckelley

                      Kyle, you ask any Royals fan and they will tell you last season was a huge disappointment. Winning 86 games got them nothing.

                      Jon, I agree. I like the job the FO has done with the farm system but if they rely exclusively on the farm system to bail them out then there is always that chance those prospects could turn into busts and end up like the Royals. With the owners refusing to spend money the Royals are a mess.

                    • Kyle

                      You can torture words to mean just about anything you want them to mean if you have no scruples about such torture.

                      But the definitions of “suck” that were clearly under operation in this conversation do not apply to the Royals.

                    • ssckelley

                      So the word “suck” is to harsh for you. Are you going to suggest that the Royals were good last season? If you are just looking at their record I can see where you say that, that was their best record they finished with since 1989. Like I posted earlier the Royals had a losing record for much of the season, they were .500 as late as August 24th. After the pressure was off and they were basically out of the pennant/wild card race they recovered to finish with 86 wins. But when the games mattered they were awful, they had one stretch in May where they only won 4 out of 23 games. Every time they looked like they were going to get back into the playoff chase they tanked. The main reason they finished 10 games over .500 is because they were good at beating up on the Twins (15-4 against them).

                      When I was a kid the Royals were my favorite AL team so I probably follow them a little more than most on this blog. I got interested in them again going into last season thinking playoff run. There is hope for them this year, the lineup is still pretty young.

                    • Kyle

                      Only a modern Cubs fan would dismiss “just looking at their record” to see how good a baseball team was.

                      That’s kind of the point. And no, I don’t buy into the “oh, they couldn’t handle the pressure early” stuff. They were cold and hurt early and got hot and healthy late. It happens.

                  • Noah_I

                    I agree the Royals don’t suck, but they may be in no man’s land, at least as far as an extended period of contention is concerned. They are an above average but not necessarily good team in a division that contains one VERY good team (Detroit), one other above average but not necessarily good team (Cleveland), one team that is currently bad but could be a fast riser within a couple of years (Minnesota), and one bad team that appears to be getting its house in order for a solid rebuild (White Sox).

                    I just don’t see the Royals being as good as the Tigers over the next two seasons, and then I think there are decent odds the Twins jump right over them at that point.

                    • Kyle

                      They might be in a tough spot, sure. They need further development from guys who seem to have stalled out in the majors.

                      Their ZOMGFarmsystemrankings! plan sort of crapped out on them.

                • CubFan Paul

                  “Losing doesn’t guarantee a good farms system”

                  It does if you do it right, according to Theo&Co

                  “And the Cubs aren’t punting anything. When they surprise this year”

                  Oh boy.

    • gocatsgo2003

      Doesn’t the addition of “elite” prospects preclude the ascension of “non-elite” prospects by construct? The addition of Bryant, Edwards, Almora, Soler, Johnson, etc. along with their immediate insertion at the top of prospect lists sure makes it hard for guys like Candelario, Alcantara, Hendricks, etc. to look like they’re moving up the list.

  • cubzfan23

    Boys of Summer… Go Cubs Go. As always I`m optimistic about positive regression. Cubs have a lot of players where with even marginal improvement can be a.500 or better team. Shark, Castro, Jackson, Rizzo, Olt, and the entire bullpen. We know defensively they will be sound.

  • ssckelley

    With all the prospects coming in the Cubs spring training may end up more interesting than the actual season.

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  • Fastball

    How many former 1st round draft picks do we have in camp this spring. Seems like we have like 7 or 8. Between the Cubs 1st rounders, Boston, Marlins and from where ever else. These guys at one time where thought to be the best of the best. Seems most of them had injury or other freaky things happen that caused them to go off track for a year or two. So I said a prayer asking that these guys all return to their most glorious state. Boy it would be nice if that really happened. :)

  • YourResidentJag

    Couple of headlines: Angels, Mike Trout To Discuss Multiyear Deal and Yoon signs with Orioles.

    Here’s hoping for the #1 pick in 2015.

    • D-Rock

      Man, if one of our top prospects or a future top prospect (2014 or 2015 draft) can come close to being a Mike Trout…

      • Kyle

        Tell you what: I think Baez’s peak value has a chance to get into that range. His ceiling is a 40 HR SS, which is easily a 7+ win player.

        • CubbieBubba

          What exactly is the metric that is used to calculate a ceiling?
          High AA Numbers + Hope + ??? = 40 homers and 7+ wins

          • Kyle

            Yes. That’s exactly it. I evaluate prospects by looking at their slash line, throwing in some hope and then making up some numbers.

      • ssckelley

        Alex Jackson, IMO, is the closest the Cubs could get to drafting a Mike Trout. But that is one heck of a tough comparison as guys like Mike Trout out of high school do not come along very often. Trout had his first big league at bat when he was only 20 years old. But he had over 1200 plate appearances in the minors before that late season call up, for comparison Baez has only has 916 and will start this season in AAA. There is something to be said for a draftee to get signed and start playing right away. Trout had 207 PA in that summer immediately after being drafted, Baez only had 18.

        But the Cubs may have already drafted their Mike Trout in Kris Bryant. He does not have Trouts speed but he could quickly climb through the minors and is only 5 months younger than Trout. As Kyle mentioned Baez could also be the next Mike Trout if he can cut down on his strikeout percentage.

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  • Greenroom

    I really want to see some of our top 4 make it to the big leagues, even just for a cup of coffee. See AA get called up and secure 2nd base. But for me this season with the big league club is about Arrieta, Grimm, Castro, Lake, Olt and Rizzo. These guys, besides Rizzo and Castro, could be big parts of the big long term plan. I cannot place the logic behind it, but I am really excited to see what we have with Olt after all his vision, etc problems. If Olt becomes the player he has the potential to be, I can see us making big moves next off-season. We most likely will not make it to the playoffs, given our division, but I feel we are going to surprise some people. Go Cubs~

  • D-Rock

    “Chicago Cubs Pitchers and Catchers: REPORT!!!”

    Glorious words that bring a smile to my face every year. Now, let’s go get that #1 draft pick in 2015! And may the Cardinals not win the Pennant or the W.S…

  • V23

    This is a happy post.

    One thing, I’ll never understand about this board is that you have the same guy primarily coming on here to only express hate and negativity without any purpose.

    Heck, made my day knowing pitchers and catchers are reporting.

    I would suggest to that same guy who likes being miserable here…to find a new sport or team or something. Why do you feel important being so predictably boring and pointless?

    • DarthHater

      “One thing, I’ll never understand about this board is that you have the same guy primarily coming on here to only express hate and negativity without any purpose.”

      Yes, the Dark Side of the Force is an incomprehensible mystery to be revered, not understood.

    • D-Rock

      I’m pretty sure he is a Cardinal fan sent here to torment us on the one place we can all find solace that is BN…

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